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Sr Gemma’s profile on the official website for the Jesuits in Britain. jesuit.org.uk

This podcast series is a joint Bishops’ Conference and Clifton Diocese production. catholicnews.org.uk/schools-of-prayer

Schools of Prayer:

Many of us lead busy lives but finding time for Christ in prayer offers us the nourishment we need to be at peace on our spiritual journey.

Monks, nuns and priests in Catholic religious communities often have deeply prayerful lives that bring them closer to the Lord.

So what can we learn from those with a devotion to great saints like St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Dominic, St Benedict, St Francis of Assisi, St Clare, St Bernard and St Ignatius?

What do each of these ‘teachers’ offer us as a tool for prayer and how does their prayer begin to shape ours?

From the Dominicans to the Benedictines, the Carmelites to the Franciscans, this podcast series explores some of these wonderful ‘Schools of Prayer’.

Each contributor belongs to a particular family of prayer – for example, we ask a Benedictine to talk about prayer at the school of St Benedict – and ask what their particular founder offers us, as Christians, in our life of prayer.

If prayer is about deepening our relationship with the person of Jesus, how then do we draw on that particular witness and example?

How can we learn more about what prayer can be and apply something of their vision of Christian discipleship to our way of life and desire to love Christ?

Schools of Prayer is introduced by Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ – a sister of the Congregation of Jesus. Listen by using clicking on the tab below:

Learning from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Canon John Udris, Spiritual Director at Oscott College, talks to us about the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

As the persecution and martyrdom of the early Christians came to an end at the beginning of the fourth century, a new form of heroic holiness began to emerge in the deserts of Egypt.

Its most famous icon was St Anthony the Great, sometimes known as Anthony of the Desert.

Imitating Jesus who went into the wilderness to pray and do battle with the devil, Anthony embraced a life of solitude and would inspire countless others who became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

Silence doesn’t figure prominently in our lives today, but silence was the chief feature of the desert into which Antony and others retreated – not to escape reality but to face it.

Canon John Udris:

“Noise is one of the distracting ways we avoid the most important issues about life and God – about others and ourselves. In the desert there are no distractions. Clarity accompanies the quality of its quiet”.

In this five-minute podcast for our ‘Schools of Prayer’ series, Canon John Udris reflects on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, recalls stories to help us visualise their prayerful lives.

“One of the specific methods of prayer from the Desert tradition is what they called ‘Talking Back’. Just as Jesus, when he was faced with the devil’s temptations countered each one with words from scripture, the Desert Fathers and Mothers would do the same.

“They imagined themselves like the young David facing the giant Philistine Goliath and defeating him with nothing but a sling, a stone and his trust in the Lord. And so they proposed, as weapons against specific temptations, words from Scripture like stones to throw against those thoughts.”

The School of St Dominic

We’ve a lot to thank the Dominicans for.

The Order of Preachers has furnished us with some of the finest minds – Doctors of the Church like the 13th century Friar St Thomas Aquinas for instance.

The Order has also given us one of our most well-known Catholic prayers – the Rosary.

So plenty to consider in this episode of our ‘Schools of Prayer’ podcast series.

Today we hear from Sister Hyacinthe, from France. She’s a Dominican Sister of St Joseph who lives with the community at St Dominic’s Priory in the New Forest, Hampshire.

“The Dominicans are at the origin of one of the most humble, popular and accessible forms of prayer – the Rosary.

“We often see artwork depicting our mother Mary giving the rosary to St Dominic – a prayer so precious and powerful that it’s said to be coming from Our Lady herself.

“The Rosary is a wonderful fruit of Dominican spirituality. Although it was set out as a formal type of prayer in the centuries following St Dominic, it came from the Order and its origin and features are essentially Dominican.

“The Rosary is prayed by the whole person – body and soul. It’s a very human prayer. We can pray it kneeling, walking, sitting or standing. We can even pray it running or doing the ironing.”

dominicansistersofstjoseph.org
Official website for St Dominic’s Priory in the New Forest

Carmelite Prayer and Spirituality

Fr James McCaffrey OCD, a priest from the Carmelite Priory in Oxford, talks passionately about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Carmelite spirituality.

“An integral part of a Carmelite’s relationship with God is to be a friend to him as well as to receive his friendship. To welcome his love with the desire to share that love with others. To give God pleasure and to relate to him knowing that he can suffer like us and understands us exactly as we are.”

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<a href=”http://www.carmelite.org.uk/Oxfordret.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>carmelite.org.uk</a>
Website for the Discalced (Teresian) Carmelite Family in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Prayerful Guide St Bernard of Clairvaux

Today we turn our prayerful attention to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux for our Schools of Prayer podcast series.

Sr Mary Apolline from the Berdardine Cistercian community at Brownshill, Stroud gives us her reflection on the remarkable twelfth century saint and reformer and also her life as a Bernardine sister.

We start with St Bernard’s Prayer to the Most Holy Name of Jesus before Sr Mary Apolline tells us about the saint’s reverence for the name of Christ:

“Saint Bernard encourages the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He says: ‘It is light, food and medicine… When preached to us, it is food… When we meditate upon it, it is light… When we invoke it, it is medicine that soothes our pains…’

“God loves us and he is always faithful to his promise. Whenever I say ‘Jesus’, I’m confident that I’ll receive whatever I need because he loves me.

“Each time I say ‘Jesus’, it is, for me, an act of faith, an act of love and an act of trust.

“The name of Jesus protects from the power of the evil one who constantly seeks to do harm.

“The name of Jesus fills the heart with joy and peace, giving strength in our sufferings.”

bernardine.org/brownshill-community
Official website for the Berdardine Cistercians of Esquermes

What lies at the heart of Christian prayer?

Fr James Hanvey SJ, Jesuit priest and Master at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, gives us an excellent reflection on Christian prayer for our Schools of Prayer podcast series.

He talks about the prayer of Jesus Christ himself and how he handed it to us – to the Church – to sustain us to this day and beyond as we seek to deepen our relationship with God.

“The whole of Christian life is a life in Christ. We are profoundly, deeply rooted in Christ. In him we live, we move and we have our being. It’s Christ who carries us, who greets us, who meets us – who holds us before the Father.

“Praying in Christ also means the other deep dimension of that prayer is relationship. It’s a prayer in and with the Church – the Body of Christ. Even on those occasions I can’t pray or when I’m asleep – or not conscious of God – the prayer of the Church carries me.”

The School of St Benedict .

In this podcast for our ‘Schools of Prayer’ series we take a closer look at Benedictine prayer and spirituality.

We travelled to the heart of the Cotswolds, to Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, to speak to Fr Stephen Horton OSB, Prior and Novice Master at the Benedictine monastery. Prinknash is a monastic community of men, who live in the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict.

“St Benedict, in his Rule, is very specific about what we do during the day – it’s sliced up, if you like, into prayer, work and meditation…

“We need to keep a balance in our lives – don’t over do one thing to the detriment of another. For St Benedict, the balance is between psalmody, the Book of Psalms in the Bible, which is the staple of a monk’s day, seven times a day we go into choir and we chant the psalms from one end of the book to the other. But also manual work, because we are not disembodied angels, we are like en-fleshed spirits – flesh and blood – and we have to realise that part of the reality of being human is to make our own living.

“Here at Prinknash we do that principally by making incense and we have other little industries. But in the end we are called back to choir. We go from work to choir, to eating, to choir, to bed – and that is the delicate balance.

Fr Stephen goes further:

“St Benedict is always insistent on coming back, coming back, coming back to the mid-point. There are no extremes in the Benedictine way because extremes can lead to spiritual insanity.”

prinknashabbey.org
Official website for Prinknash Abbey

The School of St Ignatius

Today it’s the turn of St Ignatius as we look at Ignatian prayer and spirituality for our Schools of Prayer podcast series.

St Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – in 1540. Today there are over 18,000 priests and brothers present in more than 100 countries.

One of the 18,000 just so happens to be our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. His heart for social justice, deep prayer and inspirational teaching in some ways makes him a typical Jesuit.

So who can tell us more about St Ignatius and his teaching? How can we learn from Ignatian Spirituality to deepen our own prayer by having that personal encounter with God – that face-to-face conversation?

We visited Campion Hall in Oxford to speak to Dr Rob Marsh SJ:

“Of all the things I could say about Ignatius of Loyola’s attitude to prayer, the one that strikes me most, is his belief that God is alive and active in the world and in our lives – in every corner of them. God can be found in all things.

“Prayer is the aspect of our life where we consciously practice at our relationship with a God we also find in our work and in our play. Or maybe it’s better to say where God finds us.”

 

 

campion.ox.ac.uk
Official website for Campion Hall, University of Oxford.

What lies at the heart of Christian prayer?

Fr James Hanvey SJ, Jesuit priest and Master at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, gives us an excellent reflection on Christian prayer for ourSchools of Prayer podcast series.

He talks about the prayer of Jesus Christ himself and how he handed it to us – to the Church – to sustain us to this day and beyond as we seek to deepen our relationship with God.

“The whole of Christian life is a life in Christ. We are profoundly, deeply rooted in Christ. In him we live, we move and we have our being. It’s Christ who carries us, who greets us, who meets us – who holds us before the Father.

“Praying in Christ also means the other deep dimension of that prayer is relationship. It’s a prayer in and with the Church – the Body of Christ. Even on those occasions I can’t pray or when I’m asleep – or not conscious of God – the prayer of the Church carries me.”


catholicnews.org.uk/schools-of-prayer
Our web section for Schools of Prayer.

campion.ox.ac.uk
Official website for Campion Hall, University of Oxford.